The headline of this article speaks for itself. Passing a legend so ingrained into the fabric of baseball that award for the best pitcher of the year is named after him. From 1890-1911, Cy Young threw a ridiculous 7,354.2 innings across 906 games. His grand total for strike outs comes in at 2,803 (according to Fangraphs/Baseball Reference) or 2,806 (according to Elias STATS) coming in at 21st highest of all-time.
Today, Justin Verlander overcame this monumental name as he builds his legend as a sure-fire first round Hall of Famer.
Verlander, born February 20th, 1983 came out of the womb throwing heat. Verlander, throwing 86 mph in High School was scouted by Old Dominion University. He began setting records left and right, from 17 strikeouts in a single game to not only setting the strike out record for the season (139) but coming back and beating it again (151). From there, he went to the Pan American games, helping the USA National team win Silver. All of this leading to the Detroit Tigers taking him second overall in the 2004 draft.
Here was John Sickel’s report of him at the time:
“Verlander has excellent stuff: 93-96 MPH fastball, sometimes hitting 98-99. He also has a good curve, and his changeup shows promise. His college performance did not always match his stuff, as he was sometimes undone by poor command. I haven’t seen him in person, but looking at his scouting videos, the only weird thing I see is in his delivery from the stretch. With runners on base, his delivery has some hesitation in it, a little hitch as he brings the ball forward that is not there when he uses the regular windup. It looks like it could hurt his command, a bad thing with runners on, of course. If the Tigers see it too, they may want to consider smoothing that out. Anyhow, I like Verlander and will give him a grade befitting the second overall pick, but he may take more time to develop than many college pitchers if mechanical tweaks really are necessary. Grade B+.”
Verlander cruised through the minors, eventually being proclaimed as the best pitcher in the minor leagues. And what do you do with your best prospects? Well promote them of course.
It’s July 4th, 2005, how could the story be anymore perfect? Our legend coming on July 4th seems only fitting. But stories don’t always go as planned, and in his 2 starts in 2005, JV stumbled to a 0-2, 7.15 ERA and just 7 strikeouts in 11 innings.
Justin Verlander, 102 mph Mechanics (rear view). pic.twitter.com/GaqPNrtu1z— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 30, 2017
But then it all clicked in 2006, Justin Verlander came out firing, his 17-9 record was supported by a 3.63 ERA across 186 IP, getting him recognition in Cy Young Voting (7th), MVP voting (15th), and winning him the Rookie of the Year.
That of course was just the start to Verlander’s storied career, often giving people a “glimpse to the past” of the true work-horse starter. Verlander’s career now has 432 starts under his belt, just half of Cy Young’s and just ~38% of his innings, but has now surpassed him in strikeouts, and he should easily crack the top 20 all-time this month. He threw 23 complete games, 2 of which were no-hitters and a total of 7 were shut outs in a Tigers uniform.
Amazingly, despite his dominance, Justin Verlander’s hardware is arguably lacking. He won not only the the Cy Young but the MVP in 2011. He has THREE separate 2nd place finishes in the Cy Young, which it could be argued he deserved any of them.
His storied career now includes 7 All-Star game appearances, a rookie of the year, MVP, Cy Young, Triple Crown Winner, and ALCS MVP. He ranks 6th among active players in bWAR (1st among active pitchers - and 38th overall for pitchers). He has led the league in WAR 3x.
Here’s where Verlander stood before the game and the climb he has left to go:
In the words of Jose Altuve:
Here is every strike out from his 2018 season:
And he’s not done yet.